When designing a handicapped kitchen for a mother in-law suite or even simply for universal design, one of the biggest challenges is the sink. Most sinks feature a base that is as deep as the counter, and that limits wheelchair access. They may also be too tall for wheelchairs, or they could lack a comfortable place for standing when people have limited mobility.
However, there are several models available that help overcome all of these challenges and are easy for handicapped people to use.[margin10]
Adjustable Height Kitchen Sink
If you are building a mother-in-law apartment to move a family member into your home, then you need a sink that can change along with his or her changing needs. A person who is standing at the sink needs it to be higher, but someone in a wheelchair will need it to be much lower. What happens if your parent is able to walk through the kitchen one day, but relies more heavily on a wheelchair the next?
With an adjustable sink, the height can be altered with the push of a button. The sink is easily raised to accommodate a home health aide who has come in to clean, and it can be lowered again for your family member in a wheelchair. These sinks also feature a recessed cabinet that provides wheelchairs with easier access. The entire system works using flexible hoses and a motor for the counter, so they are stable and secure.
Shallow Sink Bases
Look for base cabinets with recessed doors. This allows wheelchairs to slide into place under the sink. If the spacing is large enough, your aging parent can even slip part of a walker beneath the sink counter. Another option is to choose floating sinks featuring a large, open space below the counter.
You may prefer a deep sink for washing large pots and pans, but this is not the right choice when you are planning an accessible kitchen. Shallow sink bases are much easier for people with limited mobility to work with. They don’t have to bend over to reach items in the bottom of the sink, and they can easily reach the full work area even from a seated position.
Easy Use Handle
In addition to choosing an accessible sink, you also want to look for faucets that are easier to use. Single handles may be easier to adjust than separate knobs, and tap-touch faucets can be operated with just a light touch. You can also choose a motion sensor faucet that is particularly easy to use. Insist on a faucet with a pressure balanced valve to avoid accidental scalding.
Look for a sink that features special drying areas. These raised sections are ideal for air drying vegetables or a few hand washed dishes. They are ideal for people who are only using a few dishes at a time and may not want to run the dishwasher.
When designing a handicapped kitchen in your home, it’s important to consider what is needed today and how those needs may change in the future. Adjustable sinks are the ideal choice for their flexibility. Look for shallow cabinets that allow a wheelchair to slide under the sink, and stick with shallow basins that are easy to reach and work with. Even the faucet should be chosen carefully so it is easy to use and will prevent burns from hot water. When you choose a handicapped accessible sink, you are making it easier for your loved one to remain independent.
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